April 22, 2024

Barrett Council debates next steps in water bill standoff with defiant homeowner

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Jake Sias
Grant County Herald

During a recent Barrett City Council meeting, officials deliberated on how to address a unique challenge involving a delinquent water bill that has escalated to over $800. The owner of the bill, Jeff Demo, has taken an unusual stand by parking his vehicle over the access point needed to shut off his water, effectively preventing the city from taking action. Despite multiple contacts from city employees and the Sheriff’s office, Demo remains steadfast in his refusal to pay or remove his vehicle.

Demo’s refusal stems from a dispute over compensation for cleaning up leaves he claims were from city trees and had blown onto his yard. He argues that his efforts to clean up these leaves should be financially recognized by the city, a claim the city has rejected. Marita Rhude, the City Clerk, attempted to clarify to Demo that residents cannot unilaterally decide to perform services and then bill the city.

The situation has prompted a broader discussion about law enforcement’s role in enforcing city ordinances and the potential precedent such disputes could set. Rhude expressed concerns about fairness and the implications of not enforcing laws uniformly, noting that the financial repercussions of non-payment, including additional fees, would eventually be recovered through property taxes.

Sheriff Combs briefly addressed the council on the matter in January, suggesting that legal advice from City Attorney Justin Anderson might be the best course of action to resolve the standoff. Meanwhile, attempts by the Herald to contact Demo for comment have been unsuccessful.

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